Learning from Ignite

If you don’t know what Ignite is, simply put, it is a format in which speakers are limited to using 20 slides and each of those slides automatically advances every 15 seconds.  Thus, a speaker must get their point across within a maximum of 5 minutes.

I learned about the Ignite format from past conferences that I have attended.  And I have attended several Ignite Events in the Detroit, MI area (they have them all around the country).

This semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students give an Ignite-style talk on the last day of class.  They had two major content goals – they were supposed to summarize what they learned during the semester and they were required to have at least 5 slides on a topic that I pre-assigned to them (e.g., hexagons, pentagons, etc.).  The other catch is that they only had 30 minutes to prepare their slides and presentation.

I learned quite a lot about my students from this activity.  I saw many of them crack under the time pressure of having only 30 minutes to prepare.  Only about half of the students actually had 20 completed slides.  I heard many of them use mathematical terminology incorrectly.  And many of them were not able to talk an entire 15 seconds about each slide and left a lot of dead air time.

Many of my students complained that they are not good at thinking fast on their feet.  Unfortunately, this is a skill that they will need as teachers.  This is a skill that cannot be taught, but I do believe that it can be learned through practice.  I thought that this was a great way for the students to practice this skill in a ‘safe’ setting.

In terms of assessment, I made it a very low pressure situation and students simply got ‘participation’ credit.  But I learned a lot about my students from this activity.  A lot of students surprised me.  Some of the students who know the content well were the worst speakers and some of the students who didn’t know the content as well were the best speakers in the class.  I had the students vote at the end of class on who was the best speaker and the top two vote-getters got prizes (one got a lesson planning book and the other got a school supplies kit).

One of my students graciously agreed to be recorded and her recorded talk and slide deck are below.  Enjoy!